Bus Route 394: Angel Islington to Hackney
Hats, jazz and markets: At either end, this route serves the busy transport hubs of Angel Islington and Hackney. However, it's in the mid-section that things get interesting
The bus snakes through the narrow back streets of Shoreditch and out to the wide open space of London Fields. Here, the best of London is offered up: tiny shops independently catering to a keen clientele of niche enthusiasts, unusual restaurants, a fabulous market bursting with sense-awakening specialities to sample, and the chance to shake off the dust of the city in a much-loved green space and along picturesque Regent’s Canal.
The 394 begins near Angel, but before you board the bus, check out this busy end of Islington. The fabric stalls and independent traders of Chapel Market are just two minutes from the major junction of Liverpool Road and the end of Upper Street close to Angel tube. Around here there are plenty of familiar high-street shopping names, especially at the three-storey N1 Centre just off the main drag (Upper St, N1 0PS), and there are regular major exhibitions and events at the Business Design Centre (52 Upper St, N1 0QH, 7359 3535). However, five minutes’ walk north of here, beyond Islington Green, you’ll find stores like the retro gift emporium After Noah (121 Upper St, N1 1QP, 7359 4281). Such long-established gems give Upper Street its interesting mix of upmarket shopping appeal and independent arty traders.
As the route traverses Hoxton, it’s worth a quick stop on this tucked-away street that’s home to two well-loved local gems. CA4LA (23 Pitfield St, N1 6HB, 7490 0055) is a Japanese hat shop providing Hoxtonites with hip headgear. The name is pronounced ‘Cashila’ (‘shi’ is Japanese for ‘four’ and the word means ‘head’ or ‘top’). Music fans should check out Charlie Wright's International Bar (45 Pitfield St, N1 6DA, 7490 8345), a down-home joint with regular jazz nights. Staying on till the next stop brings you to Hoxton Street, which comes alive with Hoxton Street Market on Saturdays. Family businesses with a long history of serving the street include old-school pie-and-mash shop F Cooke (7729 7718), where traditional faves like beef pie and liquor are dished up alongside the less universally loved jellied eels. Bacchus (177 Hoxton St, N1 6PJ, 7613 0477) will provide an innovative gastronomic alternative.
London Fields Lido
The southern stretch of Kingsland Road is peppered with Vietnamese restaurants. Que Viet (102 Kingsland Rd, E2 8DP, 7033 0588) serves zingy summer rolls and restorative pho alongside its ‘fire pots’, a great gimmick for groups as the party gets communal and everyone cooks skewers of food in a central bowl of broth. Cultural nourishment can be had at the contemporary art gallery Flowers East (82 Kingsland Rd, E2 8DP, 7920 7777). Head further south to No-One (1 Kingsland Rd, E2 8AA, 7613 5314) for the pleasure of wandering around this boutique-cum-café-cum-bar with a pint or cuppa in hand, while checking out collections from emerging designers. It’s a short walk back up the road to the nearest stop to get back on the bus.
The route meanders past the bottom end of Broadway Market, where you can easily access the Regent’s Canal towpath for a waterside walk, or stay onboard and get off at the top end of the market for London Fields (map: T2), a green expanse in the heart of Hackney that’s a rightfully popular landmark of the area. The pride of the park is London Fields Lido (E8 3EU, 7254 9038), an Olympic-sized swimming spot that’s heated in winter for those braving an outdoor dip. Less chill-inducing activities include tennis on the two courts (7254 4235), table tennis at a permanent outdoor table and the chance for kids to run around in the two playgrounds. The Pub on the Park (E8 3PE) is a fine, family-friendly location to rest and refuel.
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